South Korean businessman Tongsun Park's 1973 tussle with a U.S. Customs inspector over a list of names that include references to "contributions" to 70 to 80 congressmen and then-President Richard M. Nixon is described in graphic detail in a memo made public here today.
Clyde Vidrine, a former aide to Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards, said at a press conference today that the Dec. 8, 1973, document was Anchorage, Alaska Custom inspector D. R. Hazleton's report to his district director after his confrontation with Park, who was flying back to the U.S. from Korea to host a birthday dinner for then House Majority Leader Thomas P. O'Neill.
Vidrine has been cooperating with a federal grand jury in Washington investigating allegations of South Korean payments to U.S. officials, including Gov. Edwards.
Accounts of the incident have been published before, including a story in the Oct. 24 Washington Post, but the Hazleton memo adds new details.
In his memo, Hazleton reported that he found in a briefcase carried by Park a manilla folder entitled "congressional list" containing a list of 70 to 80 U.S. congressmen and senators along with their states, party, committees and "contributions."
"The amounts shown on the list ranged from 5 to 50," Hazleton wrote. "When asked, Mr. Park stated that the figures represented 100s of dollars."
In addition, Hazelton wrote in his memo, "President Nixon's name was notated twice on the list, not typed, but in ink. On one occasion it was written next to the notation "Clark" and under "state," "White House" was written next to the notation 'Clark' and under 'state,' 'White House' was indicated."
Hazleton said he was "strongly tempted to make a copy of the congressional lists . . ." but "felt certain that any attempt to do so would result in violence and a probable arrests."
Hazelton said in the memo that he remembered 14 names from the list, which he put in the memo. Among the 14 last names he included was "Hannah," an apparent reference to former Rep. Richard T. Hanna (D-Calif.), a business associate of Park's who currently is under investigation by the Justice Department in connection with Tongsun Park.
The remaining 13 references included several surnames that could apply to more than one congressmen, one surname of a congressman who was deceased by the time of the memo, and the surname "Parry." There was no congressman named Parry at the time of the memo.
Sources close to Park told The Washington Post last October that Park claims the full list of 70 to 80 names summarized financial contributions he intended to make to U.S. officials during 1974. Park has told investigators that he does not remember all the congressmen to whom he has given contributions.
Sine one, of the names on the list was a deceased congressman, investigators believe the list may have summarized earlier contributions which Park had told Korean officials he had made.
When the list first came to the attention of The Post, sources close to the investigation said they would examine records of the 14 people named. But most of the 14 were not target of their investigating, according to sources.
In addition to the full list of 70 to 80 names, Park was carrying two Xeroxed copies and two letters from a "Congressman Parry" to South Korean President Park Chung Hee.
The letters "related generally to the formation of a large international undertaking to import items from the U.S. to Korea. These letters also spoke often and well of Mr. Park."
When Hazleton reported his findings to his chief inspector, he wrote, Park followed him, repeatedly insisting that they could not "take" his list.
During a discussion in the supervisor's office Park was left alone with the list for a short time. "Through the closed, solid wood door we both heard the sound of tearing paper," the memo said. Park denied he had torn up the list.
On several occasions during questioning Hazleton wrote, Park "stated that he was here to meet with the vice president through Senator Hanna and to arrange for business dealings relating to the export of rice from the U.S. to Korea."
Park was closely associated with former Rep. Hanna during this period. On Dec. 10, 1973, Park and Hanna hosted a birthday dinner for Rep. Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill (D-Mass.) which then Vice President Gerald R. Ford attended.
The memo also describes in a combination of colorful and bureaucratic language the struggle between Hazleton and Park over custody of the list.
The Customs official said he began checking Park's luggage because Park appeared to be carrying undeclared gifts. He found the "congressional list" in Park's briefcase, and immediately "encountered strong resistance," Hazelton wrote.
"He used both hands to grab my arm and hand in an attempt to stop me from opening the folder," the memo said. "It was not a paltry or half-hearted attempt; it was forceful and lingered with force until I had advised him of my right to search . . ."
"He removed his hands from my person, but as I attempted to open the folder, he reached out quickly and attempted to pull the papers in the folder from my grasp. I held tightly & at least two of the uppermost papers were torn in the incident."